On Markland Pond

I’m done with college! Well, sort of… I am done with my freshman year of college. It was a whirlwind of a year filled with new experiences, good and bad. However, I am not here to discuss my first year of college. I am here to discuss Markland Pond. (Don’t worry, it will make sense soon) My professors for Environmental English and Science asked me to write an ecological profile of a place, honing in on my inner Henry David Thoreau and E. O. Wilson. The place I chose to write my profile on was a little pond on campus; here is the final product:

Markland Pond isn’t exactly a pond. It is more like a small puddle of water with rocks around it, nestled underneath palms between Markland House and the Ringhaver Student Center and behind the Crisp Ellert Art Museum. I first stumbled upon this little pond last semester when my friends and I were exploring our new and exciting stomping grounds. We thought we made a grand discovery, and dubbed the pond “Shrek’s Swamp,” fully believing that this tiny body of water was part of the natural world that the school decided to preserve. When tasked with finding my “spot” for observation, I immediately wanted somewhere secluded and quiet, somewhere that no one would go and I could just sit and think. The pond was always in the back of my mind since finding it, but I never truly considered it until I was asked to find a place around town that intrigued me. Shrek’s Swamp, or rather Markland Pond as it’s more formally known, is extremely intriguing to a person like me, who values alone time and places that no one else knows about. I threw on some comfy clothes, grabbed a pen, paper, and beach towel, and made the quick walk across campus to observe what I thought was a natural beauty right across the street. I thought this little pond would be my golden ticket to solitude; however, I quickly realized that I was completely wrong, seeing as though the pond was quite the opposite of quiet.  During all my visits to the pond, the area around the pond was buzzing with students and professors alike, all going about their busy, stressful days. Many of these busybodies did not even notice the tiny pond, let alone me sitting there observing them. Still, there were no tourists or screaming kids, so I was content.

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Close Up of the Pond

Much to my dismay, Markland Pond wasn’t quite as grand during the daylight as it was on the night I discovered it. That is, until I sat down and observed it. My first observation of the pond was on April 5th, at exactly noon. Within the first five minutes of sitting there, a bird flew into a tree, a lizard scurried off in terror due to my presence, and I realized that the pond was man-made and quite possibly filled with sewage. Nevertheless, I persisted. I was determined to learn all I could about this little hidden treasure, so I began to write down everything I observed, thought, or found interesting. As I mentioned before, Markland Pond lies between Markland House and the Ringhaver Student Center, and adjacent to the Crisp Ellert Art Museum, all three highly trafficked buildings on campus. The actual pond is surrounded on three sides by different species of palm trees and small plants. On the fourth side is a large coquina wall, which does not seem to serve much purpose. The pond itself is situated in a small field of wood chips with clearly synthetic rocks, possibly made of concrete, around the edge. Imagine a bird bath but larger and embedded in the ground – that is Markland Pond. The flora and fauna of the area did not seem to care as much as I did about the pond not being natural to the area. In fact, it seemed like they had adapted quite well. The lizards were making their presence especially known that afternoon; they were scurrying up and down the trees, taking leaps of faith from the side of a tree to the ground, and mostly hiding from me when I tried to take their picture. In fact, the lizards were hard to notice at all until they moved, considering their brown-speckled bodies blended in seamlessly with the bark of the palm trees in the area. The birds were also making themselves known, not visually as the lizards did, but more so with their songs. I believe I recognized the call of a mourning dove; I learned as a kid that the call of a mourning dove was a sign that rain was on its way. However, I have since been told that this was just a myth that my grandma’s friend made up to mess with me and my sister. So it goes. On this day, the pond was murky and covered in what I believed to be green algae. While observing the algae, I found something much more interesting to me. I found thin, black tubes leading into the pond from the ground nearby. I decided to type my observation into trusty Google in hopes of an explanation, but alas, the almighty Google let me down. The tubes are still a source of puzzlement to me. Pulled out of my enchantment with the tubes, I heard the bell towers from Ponce ringing out and decided to call it a day.

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A view of the Student Center from Markland Pond

Still intrigued by the black tubes and feisty lizards, I went back the next day, April 6th, to observe the little pond once again. However, on this trip, I decided to bring along my most prized possession— my camera. Interestingly enough, I believe I am a better observer with my camera in hand, possibly because I am on the hunt for interesting things to photograph. On this day, I was presented with yet another puzzling observation. As I was lying on the ground in an attempt to get a cool shot of a lizard, I noticed three shells of some sort. Not sea shells as one would expect to find around here, but rather, shells from some type of nut. Upon further observation and photo taking, I noticed that one of the nut shells had a hole in it and its insides had been, I’m assuming, eaten out of it. The second shell was broken into pieces and the third shell was still intact with itself and its insides. I lament, I do not know my tree nuts as well as I should, but I knew who did: my father. I snapped a picture with my phone and sent the nutty inquiry to my dad in hopes that he would be able to provide an answer. More trustworthy than Google had been, my father sent back, “looks like the husk off a hickory nut”. I looked up to the palm trees in confusion. There were no hickory trees in the vicinity. As before, I expressed my confusion to my father and once again, he provided an explanation. He suggested that the nuts might have floated here during a time when the city flooded, as it does that quite often. It had, in fact, rained that week. I took his word for it and snapped a few more photographs. Something peculiar happened that day – there were no lizards to be seen. I thought to myself, “Of course they would go into hiding as soon as I take my camera out!” Instead of marveling over the lizards as I had planned, I snapped photographs of the surrounding area. Upon further observation of the area, I was, wait for it, puzzled once again. There were nails in the coquina wall as well as in one of the larger palm trees. I could not help but think how this must affect not only the trees, but also the lizards that climb the trees. They are having their already man-made habitat become even more anthropocentric, much to environmentalist John Muir’s chagrin. I do not know the purpose of the nails in the tree, but I do not assume that they have an environmentally friendly purpose. But that is what humanity does: we build, add, and nail for our own selfish purposes, even if that purpose is not valid or clearly thought-out.

On the third day, I rose from my dorm room to trek across campus once again to join the lizards. Upon my arrival, another peculiarity stuck out to me. On that day, there were wood chips strewn across the top of the pond. Whether the disarray was remnants from a drunk college kid stumbling home, the wind, or a combination of both, I do not know. The algae on that day was missing, which for some reason, gave me a sense of emptiness. I had grown attached to the luminescent lime green mush.  Unfortunately, the lime green mush did not share that affinity and had disappeared. Also on that day, the lizards were not scampering about as much as usual. I accredited this to the influx of humans near their home – there was an event going on at the Markland House that night and the lizards were either in attendance or hiding from their new visitors. Most likely the latter, I am assuming. I was more acutely aware of the human surroundings on this day. Without being actively aware of it, on my first and second visits to the pond I tuned out the sounds of the world outside of my little nook. On that day, I heard lewd rap music blaring from a passing car, a helicopter whizzing overhead, a woman lighting her cigarette, keys clanking against a backpack, a professor and student discussing graduation plans, two girls droning on about their boyfriends, dogs barking as loud as they could muster, flip-flops click-clacking against the pavement, and a car horn incessantly honking, crying for its owner to come save it from being stolen. I sat there wishing I could drown those sounds out again. In hindsight, though, I am glad I didn’t. Those irritating sounds of the human world made me appreciate the natural sounds I had been attuned to before even more. I often get caught up in my own petty problems that I do not stop to ponder about and appreciate the world around me. I harkened to the words of Leopold and Burroughs – I tried to think like a mountain and hone the art of seeing things.

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When I thought, listened, and saw, I realized that the nook I came to love was a world of lazy water, swaying palm trees, and slightly skittish lizards living amidst a world of busy schedules, bloodshot eyes, and caffeine-driven zombies. Yet the two lived in harmony. The busy world went on without disturbing the calm world, and the calm world let the busy world be. The lizards continue leaping, ignoring the college students passing by; the birds continue chirping, completely unbothered by the chirps of cars down the road; the algae continues to grow, inattentive to the actuality that it is only seen as lime green, luminescent mush. If only the rest of the human world could live in harmony with the natural world as it does at Markland Pond. The oversized bird bath embedded in the ground is a place of solitude, harmony, and beauty, free from the trials of this world. Now, I’m not saying leaping lizards, singing birds, and green mush are going to save the world. But I’m also not saying they can’t at least help. Maybe all this world needs is a few more places like Markland Pond.

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Markland Pond

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On Hurrication 2016: The Aftermath

On Sunday afternoon, we went over to my cousin Lori’s house to celebrate me and Ashley’s birthdays. As we sat down to eat, the subject of my classes being cancelled came up. I said something to the effect of I was disappointed that class continued to be cancelled. My cousin, Andrew, asked in his deepening by the day voice “Wait, so why is school being cancelled not a good thing?” Because at 13, school being cancelled is basically the equivalent to a blessing from God. I responded simply without really giving it much thought by saying “Because the city where my college is at got destroyed.” But that got me thinking… Why am I sad that school is cancelled? Just months ago I would have been ecstatic to get one day of school cancelled, even more so if I got three or four days. Well, “school” is so much more than just classes now. “School” is now eating crappy dining hall food but thinking it’s okay because you’re laughing about inside jokes with some of the best people you’ve ever met while doing it. “School” is now being in the room with and right down the hall from some of your closest friends. “School” is now interesting classes that actually challenge you and make you think. “School” is now learning to live life without your parents holding your hands every step of the way (well, at least with a lessened grip). “School” is now meeting people from all over the world that have all come to the same place to gain knowledge about multiple different subjects. “School” is now crying during the middle of the day from stress and then realizing later that the amount of work you have to do really isn’t that bad. “School” is now going out at 9 pm to take pictures of your friend who willingly dressed up as a ghost and asking your neighbors/friends if they will come along to hold the lights. “School” is now choosing to wake up early on a Saturday to get your work done so you can go to the beach later in the day. “School” is now thinking you won’t make it another day without dying from stress but then somehow miraculously continuing to wake up every single day without fail. “School” is now finding your passions and being asked by professors to question everything you know. “School” is no longer just monotonous classes. “School” is now a beautiful, interesting, weird city and all that comes with it. “School” is now something I love… Even when I have homework.

On Getting Ready for College

Graduating from high school and moving on into the “real world” is a scary, exciting, and eye-opening time. During the first leap – choosing a college – you think that will be the hardest decision of your life.. and at the age of eighteen, it is. Then comes choosing a major, choosing classes, and the most daunting (for me at least) choosing roommates.

On Choosing a College: “So.. what made you choose Flagler?”… “Isn’t SCAD a better college for Graphic Design?”… “Why did you not choose UGA?”… “OH so you didn’t choose Young Harris.. Is that because you didn’t want to be known as Ashley’s sister or Steve and Connie’s daughter?” … Those are all questions I have received since declaring the Ancient City as my home for the next four years (okay yeah I kind of paraphrased with the last question… oops.) They are good questions and ones that I have actually asked myself a time or two.

So, what DID make me choose Flagler? Well, first and most obvious of all, it is a stunning campus not only because of it being a ten minute drive to the beach, but also because of the rich history and spectacular architecture – yes, I am that weirdo that will stop at every sign depicting the historical background of the building or statue and read it. Second of all, they have an incredible Graphic Design department with professors that seem to actually care about the students and helping us succeed. Lastly, the people I encountered on my visit at Flagler were, for the most part, kind and welcoming to me. The atmosphere of being in a place with college kids and tourists constantly buzzing around excites me to no end.

Now, is SCAD better for Graphic Design? Maybe.. maybe not. All I know is, you pretty much have to sell your soul to afford going there. If I’m honest, I kinda like my soul.. So that took SCAD out of the picture.

The question I was asked by my high school counselor – “I see you got accepted to UGA.. why aren’t you going there?”- was one I was not entirely sure of the answer to at first. I had plenty of reasons to choose UGA – it was relatively close to home, my best friend was going there, they had my major, the HOPE and Zell Miller Scholarships would cover my tuition, etc. But the answer I came down to was this… It just wasn’t “me”. I don’t see myself fitting in at a huge university surrounded by sorority girls and frat bros… Not that sororities and fraternities are bad, they just aren’t my thing. I also wasn’t crazy about the fact that I would have to ride a bus to get to all my classes.. Mostly because I know I would get lost every day. UGA is a great institution.. just not for me.

With all that being said, the question I have struggled to find the answer to the most though was this, “Why not Young Harris?”.  For those that know my family, you will know that both my parents and my sister attended college in the Enchanted Valley… and for pretty much all my life, I thought I would too. I adore Young Harris and everything about it. The people there are helpful and welcoming, the campus is one you would imagine to be in movies, and the opportunities that await there are endless. So, did I choose not to go to YHC because of my parents and sister? Absolutely not. That is the furthest thing from the truth. I cannot express how immensely proud I am to say I am Steve and Connie’s daughter and Ashley Davenport’s little sister. They have all done incredible things up at YHC and have all left behind admirable legacies that I would be honored to be connected to. But unfortunately, Young Harris does not have my major and, if I’m being entirely honest, I didn’t know whether YHC would have the connections to help me get the job I want after I graduate.

On Choosing a Major: When it came to choosing a major, I was already pretty set on what I wanted before I even started applying to schools. Here’s the full story for anyone interested, although I am not sure why anyone really would be but here it goes- In my sophomore year of high school I was put in an interior design class. I asked for interior design mainly because I needed a class to fill the last slot in my schedule and I thought it would be a fun class. Interior design was one of my favorite classes of high school; I even thought I wanted to be an interior designer for a while.  When it came time to choose classes for junior year, I chose “Graphic Design” simply because I saw the word “design” and assumed it would be similar to interior design. About halfway through the semester, I realized I actually really loved graphic design and I was relatively decent at it so I started rethinking my future plans.. By the end of the semester I had completely made up my mind to major in Graphic Design in college. (Side note: Here’s a tip for any underclassmen choosing classes, choose at least one class each semester that you think you could be interesting or “fun”… Those are usually the best ones and you might even find something you love!) For those of you wondering what I want to do with a graphic design major; as of right now, I am hoping to work in the magazine world as a layout designer or a graphic designer. As with any “future plans”, that dream will change a million times by the time I graduate.

On Choosing Classes: The first time I looked at all the classes I had to take to graduate, I cried (I wish I was kidding). At first, everything looked so overwhelming and I was pretty much convinced I wouldn’t graduate on time. However, my mom gave me advice and calmed me down, and my awesome first year advisor, Kristine Horn, helped me and told me what classes I should take for my first semester. I won’t bore you with the details of choosing classes because it wasn’t all that glamorous… I now have a schedule full of classes I am actually excited about (okay, well maybe I’m not super excited for Statistics) and cannot wait to take on this fall.

On Choosing Roommates: Flagler gave us the wonderful option of requesting our roommates.. However, that came along with the task of actually finding strangers you’d want to live with for nine months. The first step of this process was joining a group message full of girls all looking for roommates. In our group message, we all sent in “bios” to basically say a little bit about us and what we were looking for in a roommate. I don’t remember what exactly I said in my “bio” but it was something along the lines of being outdoorsy, clean (for the most part), and wanting a roommate that wasn’t going to come home drunk at 2 AM. A little while after sending my bio, I received a message from a girl named Maddy. Over the next couple of days, we bonded over Ed Sheeran and theater and tons of other stuff… We found out that we were practically the same person when it comes to our interests. I never thought I would find a roommate I would connect with so quickly! After about a week or so we decided that if I chose Flagler (this was when I was still undecided) then we would be roommates. Madeline actually ended up finding us a third roommate, Hannah! All three of us are in a group message and we get along better than I ever expected… I am genuinely excited to be living with these two! Here’s my advice for finding a roommate: be completely yourself and know what you want in a roommate …you will end up finding incredible people.

I think the cover photo/mantra of our roomie group message sums it up the best:

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